A Day in the Life of a Marshal (or – don’t mess with me Arse!)

Posted on August 18, 2010. Filed under: aberfeldy, anaphylaxis campaign, cycle, Half ironman, Half marathon, Kenmore, loch tay, Marshal, Referee, run, swim, triathlon, wetsuit |

Loads of people have been asking me how I am feeling after the weekend.  The stock answer at the moment is surprisingly good.  I had an awful night’s sleep on Sunday as muscle pain set in and the warm glow of a day in the sun came became a towering inferno on my face and shoulders.  But by today, three days on, the legs are pretty much feeling back to normal, the shoulders are back to normal (which isn’t actually that good) and the sunburn has cooled down – but I do know that this is a false dawn as after the marathon I had a good week and then a really deep fatigue set in just after I stopped eating everything that wasn’t nailed down.  For those that haven’t seen me since – I did actually look fine 10 minutes after I finished as this photo testifies.

Hopefully, this weekend all being well I will get out on the bike and spin my legs a bit in between bouts of binge drinking.

Anyway, over to power mad Pam in this post for a dark insight into her day on Sunday…….

My marshalling duties actually began the day before the event when I ran the 2 hour slot for team registration just before the race briefing at 8pm. Earlier on in the day when DC had come to register there was an annoying rude small man, we will call him Arse because it wasn’t actually Dougie, having a go because the race route wasn’t posted on the wall. I took an instant dislike to him and this, unfortunately, wasn’t the last I would see of him. It was astonishing how many people asked where the start was or what the route was. How do these people manage to organize themselves to train or even get themselves to the registration point? Have they not looked at the route beforehand on their computers?? Anyway Arse reappeared asking how long the race briefing would last and when I replied an hour I thought he was going to explode. I actually had no idea how long the race briefing was going to last and had it been anyone else I might have gone and asked but the manner in which he asked made the words “an hour” just came out my mouth. Turns out I was pretty close. That was my inner marshal coming to the fore!

Just as the race briefing was starting and we had packed up registration, a very harassed giant girl flew through the door like a whirling dervish asking if she was too late and where to go and what to do and what was her name etc etc blah blah… I sent her to the briefing while we dug out her number and found her a swim cap. I took her stuff to her at the briefing and she was way less harassed by this point, very thankful and not remotely like Arse. She was also very tall and toned a bit like an Amazon!

 The eye candy was alright but the guys that do this Ironman malarkey are all pretty wirey. DC does not yet fall into this category and I would rather he didn’t get like that, hence the amount of food I had squirreled away throughout the day to feed to him at the finish line!!

 To be up at 6.30am on a Sunday morning – now, I am a dedicated wife! I was told I was helping somewhere at the swim start so just had to turn up and there I was given my bright shiny marshal bib. A uniform! Oh the power I had now! My alter ego Pam the Powerful/Organiser/Controller arrived in Kenmore with force. I was assigned to Transition 1 (T1 to us marshalling types) where all the bikes were to ensure that the swimmers ran the whole way round the barriers before getting to their bikes rather than ducking under the barrier and, as a marshal, I can assure you that there are several good reasons for this. One is so that swimmers don’t get mowed down by cyclists making their exits. A second reason is that the blue matting that is laid down for the runners to run up is fine in bare feet but is very slippy for anything else. I’ll come back to this.

 So as I was not needed until the swimmers were coming out of the water I was able to watch the start. It was a bit chaotic but thankfully the mist had lifted a bit and you could see the buoy at the far side of the loch. I saw DC enter the water and take his first few strokes and then I lost him (from vision and not to the sea!). I could have been sick I was so nervous. I don’t know why. I know he has done all the training he needs to, well, apart from the swimming on account of the broken shoulder. It was at this point I was glad I have volunteered to marshal to take my mind off the madness.

I made my way up to the transition area and waited for the first swimmer to come out. The first few bounced up the car park but their faces were very red from the cold water. Unbelievably, a couple of people contemplated ducking under MY barrier but I shouted at them and waved my marshalling pencil and clipboard in a menacing fashion and they sensibly thought better of it. They will thank me later for not getting a 15 minute penalty!

 DC appeared around about the time I was expecting so I had no long period of waiting to see him. He looked fine to me but as you will have read he was a bit dazed and confused. I thankfully did not know this and the nausea subsided a bit. Off he went on the cycle. Just don’t fall off.

 A good 10 minutes after DC and my little nemesis Arse appeared. Obviously swimming was not his thing. He also looked ridiculous in a wet suit so I had a bit of a chuckle to myself. Towards the end one older guy appeared with his bike on the wrong side. As he was coming towards me I asked/ordered him to get over the other side which he foolishly and petulantly ignored. His bike was on the blue mat and just slid away from him and rather than let go his hands went with his bike and the words “Jesus F’in Christ” were screamed at me as he hit the deck!! Classy, clearly he missed the part of the pre-race briefing where they said to be nice to marshals. Thankfully not many people were like this.

 I also had to ensure that the swimmers in the teams had their wet suits off before the cyclists could start off. Also no public was allowed in this area. One of the advantages of me volunteering was that I got to go into areas where I wouldn’t have normally been able to go, and so I was able to get some photo’s of DC in both transition areas. I didn’t even have to say “do you know who I am??”.

 The last lady to exit the water was part of a team and was in the water for 1 hour 10 minutes, which is an awfully long time in that temperature. She was in bits, a bit unsteady on her feet and looked like she was going to be sick. A friend of hers was running along side her for encouragement but I stopped her at the entrance. What power! The friend begged me to let her in as she was worried she was going to faint and although rules are rules I showed clemency and relented. Her cyclist team mate headed off. I then did something that I am slightly embarrassed about. The power had gone to my head. Some kids were trying to get in and I stopped them too – this is a dangerous enough place for a professional marshal like me never mind children!. One of them was nearly crying. Turns out it was the children of the fainting woman and they just wanted to see that their Mum was alright. As there were no bikes left I was relieved of my duties and could stop being such a Nazi!! Ooops. Just following orders! Snot bubbles all round as the kids ran to their mum.

 I helped pack up all the carnage in the transiton area. There were towels and wet suits everywhere and you just had to work out which ones went in what bags. We also had the pleasure of disposing of all the half eaten bananas, energy gels and yoghurts. Hands washed from all the pishy wet suits (DC had some difficulty in this department in the cold water but others obviously didn’t. Yes they do pee in them and you could smell it!) Then it was bacon rolls with my marshalling colleagues. It was at this point that we heard that the council had lifted 3 vehicles for being illegally and insensitively parked on the race route. Some celebrations and a weird little marshal dance then ensued!

 We headed back to the school in Aberfeldy to transition 2 (or T2 as the pros call it). The first athletes (ie the winners) were expected about 11.30. The cyclists had to run along a path and we were racking their bikes for them. The guy next to me took the bikes while I directed the athlete into the building where people were ready with their run kit. This was a most amusing job apart from the several sweaty cuddles I got. About 60% of the people at this point were away with the fairies. Completely. It was quite funny but also quite worrying how on earth they managed to get round on bikes, it was like they were on auto pilot. Some, clearly emotionally attached, tried to go with their bikes and I literally had to grab them by their arms and drag them back. Some I had to speak to very slowly to so that they could take it in and then I spun them round gently and shoved them off in the direction that they needed to go in. I caught several of them who were going too fast and started to slide about in their cycling cleats. When more than 3 bikes arrived at once it would get a bit hairy and I broke a couple of nails catching flying bikes and/or bikists. This is clearly an occupational hazard of elite marshalling.

 The state of the specimens arriving at the end of the bike were varied. Amazon was very quick but Arse was nowhere to be seen. One lady threw her bike at us shouting “If I ever see that f^cking bike again it will be too f^cking soon”. Another lady came in covered in chain oil – obviously a broken chain but she did not seem to be as angry. Another guy came in who looked very fit (one of the best eye candy specimens) but totally cheesed off as he pushed his bike in our general direction and just let it go – it turned out he had had 2 punctures and had ran the last 10K in his bare feet! Now that is an Ironman!

 DC appeared quicker than I had set in my head so again I was not left wondering where he is. He looked ok and I was momentarily relieved of my post so I could go and take some photos and speak to him. This marshalling business is brilliant and by now, yes – they did know who I am! Arse appeared some time after DC. Result – I don’t quite know why I was so excited by this!

The cyclists came in over a much longer period than the swimmers so there was quite a wait. However I had my official marshal’s bag with a cheese savory sandwich in it to keep me going. I kept the other goodies for fattening up DC when he finished. Two ladies who were part of teams were waiting on their own for ages and started to ask if they could find out if their cyclists were still going. Both their husbands were doing the cycling stage together. They eventually arrived and one of the guys was absolutely done in. Once he had sat for 10 minutes and gathered himself I heard his little boy ask if he would do it again. He said yes to which the little boy asked “do you think you should do more training next time?”. We were wetting ourselves.

 Long before the last cyclists came in the front runners were finished. It was quite demotivating for some individuals to see guys picking up their bikes while they were just about to start their half marathon. I didn’t see Amazon finish as I was still at T2. However she came down to where we were to look for her bike. We couldn’t find it but she didn’t seem too bothered as she was enjoying coveting all the other bikes. There was a lot of this weird bike adulation going on over the course of the day. Turned out due to a disqualification she was 2nd female beaten only by the Ironman Lanzarote champion.

 Then my duties were done and I said goodbye to the nice people I had met. Another perk to the job was that I was then able to pick up DC’s bike and his 2 kit bags and take them to the car. The bikes were not racked in order so getting your bike back was going to be a bit chaotic for the ordinary punters who didn’t have special official access. En route to the car with the bike (i refuse to acknowledge her pet name) I was actually stopped by some blokes who wanted to pick it up to feel the weight. These guys had already finished so as you can imagine they were pretty fit. Seemed like a fair deal. They could admire the bike and i could check them out. Oh yeah where was I….. I then got his change of clothes and towel and headed to the finish. I knew I was too early but I hung about to get a good spot for a photo. I had taken off my vest of power so now I was just a plain old spectator. It didn’t feel quite right. However it was 25 degrees in the sun and I would have passed out if I had kept it on. DC arrived again within the time I would have expected so no worrying. Very generous of him to do this to stop me worrying. He even managed some arm waving as he crossed the line. He looked so much better than I thought and I was very proud of him.

He came round the barriers and we sat in the sun and watched a few more come in. It was at this point he inhaled a lot of snacks. Now you see the jelly babies now you don’t!

I would definitely volunteer at something like this again. The atmosphere was fantastic, you get some sweaty hugs from delirious bikists and you meet lots of nice people, except for Arse.

There will be a further post tomorrow night for an important update on this weekend’s swim.

And yes, you can still sponsor me if you haven’t yet had the chance.  Apparently, my Just Giving page will stay active for donations until July 2015 so you will have plenty of opportunity but I will be retiring the blog and stopping the reminders in the middle of next week.  Thanks to all who have donated already.



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2 Responses to “A Day in the Life of a Marshal (or – don’t mess with me Arse!)”

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Go girl ….. I'm liking the 'uniform' – yellow suits u!


Fantastic…you guys have clearly missed your vocation…you could be serial bloggers ! No hang on, that scares me !


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